Whoever Changes Culture the Fastest Wins

October 5, 2022
October 5, 2022 Jamie Notter

I talked to two separate organizations recently who had completed culture change projects over the last few years. They both had measured their employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) when they started the culture work back around 2019, and then again this year. eNPS measures how likely people would be to recommend someone to work there, and it’s a great measure of overall engagement. Their results were strikingly different:

  • one went from a +34 to a +50
  • the other went from a +5 to a -20.

A +50 is considered very high for an eNPS, and the -20 is very concerning.

As far as I can tell, the primary reason for the difference is that the first organization stayed on top of the culture change during the pandemic, and the other put the culture work on the back burner. Certainly they both had to delay the culture work in the early stages (spring/summer of 2020). That’s when we were all figuring out how to both work from home and deliver our services virtually. But the first organization got back into culture by late 2020 and stayed focused on it. They had to adjust their culture change plans, given the turmoil, so they replaced some planned culture change activities with new ones. But they kept doing the work.

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The other one put it on hold until 2022, when they measured their culture again. Their assessment scores were more or less the same. Some questions showed variation from three years earlier, but the difference wasn’t big. The only big shift was in the eNPS. It’s not that their culture had gone downhill over the last three years—it’s that it hadn’t moved uphill at all. It’s the lack of change that leads people to give up and become disengaged. And for the record, the -20 has a great opportunity right now to turn it around. If they start actively changing culture, their people will respond. Once you start doing this work, consistently, your people will care much less about what you didn’t do before.

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That’s why we revamped our culture change coaching program this year. One of the biggest differences we can make right now is to ensure that your culture is being visibly adjusted to make the organization and the employees more successful. In the coaching, we work with the CEO, COO, or CHRO to make measurable, quarterly progress on the culture change, including deep change management support. It doesn’t have to be a huge transformation, but if you’re taking years to make small changes, you’re going to lose this race.


Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.